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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

Point/Counterpoint: The Office Holiday Party

December 07, 2018 | Filed in: Take a Break

The office holiday party: a hotly anticipated event for some, a dreaded obligation for others. We love the bonding and the celebrating—we despair at the minefield of disastrous encounters, too little food, and dress code confusion. Writers and comics Colette McIntyre and Lori Goldman are office party veterans who’ve attended many an awkward soirée on the company dime. We asked them to debate the pros and cons of the office shindig, to settle the argument once and for all. 

Colette: Hello, Lori! Thank you for agreeing to debate me about a very controversial topic. Hopefully, at the end of this, we remain friends. There’s a chill in the air and Shannon in Marketing keeps showing up to work in elaborate festive brooches, which can only mean one thing: office holiday party season approaches. It’s a night I typically dread, but you love work holiday parties. Please explain.

Lori: I love an office holiday party more than I love pigs-in-a-blanket—and I once stalked a bat mitzvah cater waiter to get first dibs on the best dogs. The office holiday party is the only time of year when I can truly be myself at work. People get to see the real me—the “screaming Christmas song lyrics, eating fistfuls of Chex Mix” me. And if it doesn’t go over well, I can blame it on the ‘nog.

Colette: As a professional woman whose career has been built mostly on a foundation of pluck and pizzazz, this is what I’ve learned: the office holiday party is like my LinkedIn profile—sounds great, mostly lies. You think it’s going to be an amazing night bonding with coworkers, but a few hours later you realize that you’re the only soul on the dance floor (unless you count the inflatable snowman décor).

Lori: Disagree. If people can’t handle me at my dancing-with-a-snowman best, they have no business Slacking me on Monday. The party isn’t even the main event for me: I love the fun of getting ready with coworkers beforehand. Last year, the women on my team and I left work early and went shopping for outfits on party day. It was exhilarating!

Colette: I reject this argument, because deciding what to wear to the party is the hardest part. In my experience, there’s always someone who takes the “holiday attire” directive too seriously, showing up decked out in accessories that require triple-A batteries. I don’t need the glow from your surprisingly powerful Christmas light necklace to reveal that I’ve anxiously sweated off my cat-eye liner!

Lori: You have a point. That’s why I’ve developed a flawless three-part plan to dress for the office holiday party. It may or may not involve a cape.

Colette: The two things I love most in this world are capes and multi-step plans. Proceed.

Lori: Step One: Wear something that works for a party and your workday—something professional and polished, but a tiny bit festive.

Step Two: When it’s party time, add a showstopper: statement shoes, sparkly jewelry, a red lip—perhaps even a velvet cape, if you feel ready to ascend to that level of festivity. 

Step Three: Holiday flair. Show Shannon in Marketing that she’s not the only woman who knows her way around a thematically appropriate brooch. Go big! There are no rules.

Colette: I have to stop you right there, because there are so many rules, Lori. Every office rule still applies, and the chance to make a career-ruining mistake is way too high, to say nothing of the potentially embarrassing next-day gossip. 

Lori: If you keep your wits about you, the only potential downside of the office holiday party is the food. Either there’s not enough, or there’s too much of the stuff you don’t want.

Colette: That’s where you’re wrong. I love cocktail party food. Skewering tiny cubes of cheese means that you always have something to do with your hands. If you run out of small talk, you can point at the odd-looking thing on the charcuterie plate and say “Hey, look at that.” That’s five minutes of entertainment right there! 

Lori: I once worked at a company with a Danish CEO who decided that the only holiday party hors d’oeuvres we needed were smoked fish and purple cabbage. Let me tell you, it was not hygge.

Colette: I think we can both agree on one thing—no matter how the actual party goes, the morning after is never fun. It seems like every office holiday party is scheduled for a Wednesday or Thursday night in an attempt to ensure the festivities end at a decent hour (which never happens). And then everyone has to spend the next day at work pretending they’re not completely exhausted.

Lori: That’s true. The only thing that saves that next work day is a massive catered lunch order. I’m partial to Italian—lasagna, garlic bread, meatballs. It pairs especially well with the next-day gossip. Actually, I might actually consider that the real office holiday party. 

Colette: Midday carbo-load with coworkers? That’s an office holiday celebration that even I can get behind.

Lori: Want to come over and order mozzarella sticks and watch The Holiday?

Colette: I thought you’d never ask.